INTERVIEW: Marco Benevento

Marco Benevento (photo by Michael Benevento)
Marco Benevento (photo by Michael Benevento)

If there is a soundtrack for feeling happy, Marco Benevento wrote it. That’s evident on Benevento’s third studio album, “Between the Needles and Nightfall” on the Royal Potato Family label. His exuberant live shows often inspire wild dancing, not something necessarily associated with the piano.

Benevento says, “I was influenced by certain records when recording, namely the German band Can. Two songs off the new album – ‘Greenpoint’ and ‘RISD’ – were reminiscent of dance tunes with one repeating thing. They reach out into a more dance-oriented, upbeat instrumental rock sound versus a piano-led rock-jazz kind of thing. More like a David Byrne/Talking Heads style, but, of course, in a different manner, with loop writing.

“We recorded the new album in three days with post-production at my studio. Tracking with the band is easy. We try out new ideas – adding keyboards and mess around with it with drum loops and create arrangements that way. It’s a real fun way to track it, layering it with effects, and perfecting each track. The band trusts that it is going into the hands of the person who has the vision.”

Benevento will be performing at Red Square in Albany on Saturday night (October 22) with bassist Dave Dreiwitz from Ween and drummer Andy Borger, who works with Norah Jones. According to Benevento, “I’ve toured many times with these guys, and they are friends of mine from various festivals. They’re in some great bands of their own.”

Benevento will also be traveling with his own piano, which is an upright 1927 Wurlitzer with 61 keys versus the standard 88. The kind of pianos that were used in bars and train cars. He says, “The piano will have guitar pick-ups in it, run through pedals and live amps, so it sounds like the record with delay, reverb and distortion. I also have a little effects pedal that allows me to add layers like loops, so you can hear the same sounds as the record. It’s cool to be able to travel with your own piano and be able to play wherever you want. I get to play an instrument that you don’t have to plug in, where the strings are vibrating when I hit a note. In a side band, Garage-A-Trois, I play a lot of different synthesizers, but the home base for me is the piano for sure. It’s the instrument I’m most connected to.”

The Marco Benevento Trio does Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” and Elton John’s “Bennie & the Jets”

He says, “I’m realizing it now with more and more gigs and with different bands and instruments, that behind the piano is my favorite place to be, relating to your own space and personal space. Going to school, I would sit in the piano room the longest – more than any other instrument. After putting out these three records – ‘Invisible Baby,’ ‘Me Not Me’ and ‘Between the Needles and Nightfall’ – I’m finally just able to tour under my own name and with my instrument, the realization of if I could play piano that would be amazing.”

“Now with my own family, my wife and two kids, I have to find my own voice. The goal and whole study of it all is not to be technically the best you can be, but more of who you can be or who you are. Taste has so much to do with music; music is so many different things. It’s where you are at.”

When asked about a career high Benevento says, “I played with a trio at Carnegie Hall. We were asked to play by the headliner Jamie Cullum. He heard about me, and I totally dug it hanging out with him. To be asked to play Carnegie Hall because of my own music was awesome and incredible. I brought my own video camera and put it down. The audio recording and listening to the audiences’ reaction after each song was truly amazing.”

A recent transplant from Brooklyn to the Woodstock/Saugerties area, Benevento has found a nice new spot to call home. “The first thing I did when I arrived was go to Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. My friend Joe Russo, who now plays drums with Furthur, got me in and I sat in with Levon and played ‘The Weight.’ To just move here and see and play with all these great musicians like Garth Hudson (the Band) and Danny Louis (Govt Mule), it was a nice welcome to the town.”

Catch the Marco Benevento Trio on Saturday night (October 22) at Red Square in Albany. Pungee is scheduled to open the show at 9pm. Tix are $12 in advance; $15 at the door.

Interview and story by Janet Kwiatkowski

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